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Virginia joins 15 other states in legalizing marijuana

Last updated on March 29, 2021 5:55 pm

Virginia is the 16th U.S. state to pass an adult-use marijuana legalization law, though sales would not start until 2024.

By MONA ZHANG

The Virginia Legislature approved adult-use marijuana legalization Saturday in a historic vote marking the first state in theOld South to embrace full legalization.

The House passed the measure in a 48-43 vote, and the Senate approved it in a 20-19 vote. Not a single Republican voted for the bill in either chamber.

“This, to me, is a justice bill,” Del. Charniele Herring, a sponsor of the legalization bill and the Democratic majority leader, said on the floor. “While it has flaws and it is not the perfect bill … I think this moves us a step in the right direction.”

The vote came after a conference committee struck a deal on Saturday to reconcile different versions of the bill that passed in both chambers earlier this month.

The impact: Virginia is the 16th U.S. state to pass an adult-use marijuana legalization law, though sales would not start until 2024. Only two other states — Illinois and Vermont — have passed legislation to legalize, tax and regulate recreational marijuana through the legislature.

The move puts pressure on neighboring states such as Maryland, where an adult-use legalization bill got its first hearing this month. New Jersey also recently enacted legalization, after voters overwhelmingly backed a referendum in November.

What’s next: Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has championed legalization as a racial justice issue.

Under the compromise legislation, marijuana possession would not become legal until January 2024, when regulated sales are scheduled to start. The state would start setting up a marijuana regulatory agency this July.

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